The King’s Mountain Half Marathon route in Huddart Park

Today’s Lesson: Not all trail runs are created equal.

When I signed up for Wildflower Long Course, Karin Langer advised, “Better trail run your ass off!” So I’ve been doing just that.

I broke the seal on trail races last month with the Woodside King’s Mountain Half. It went alright, all things considered. I was just coming down with a cold, so my energy was low and my heart rate was running 10-20 bpm higher than usual (Just don’t run when you’re sick. It’s dumb. I promise I paid the price for my presumptuousness in the week that followed…) This meant that I had to walk more than usual just to reign in my sky-rocketing heart rate. The course was a steady, gradual climb 1,880 feet up to the 6.5 mile turnaround point.  After that, I just tucked my legs up underneath me and effortlessly careened back down the mountain like a winged unicorn until mile 12, where I rolled my ankle and limped the final mile on raw adrenaline, hoping to beat the onset of swelling.

I finished in a respectable 1:37, which was good enough for 4th female overall.

Today’s race was the King Richard Annual Half Marathon, and I figured that now that I was in good health and had my mischievous ankle swaddled, there was no way I couldn’t snag a PR!

As we crowded the starting line, the race director warned us that this course “Packs a punch” and once we got a taste of it, we would certainly wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into!

“Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes,” he casually added.

The course delivered on that promise by about mile 2 (not on the snakes part, thankfully!) At 25 minutes in, my legs were screaming at me as I was mountain-goating up a cliff, and it occurred to me that 11 more miles of this would literally take all day. Many sections of the course simply weren’t runnable (If the hill is so steep you find yourself running in place, you swallow your pride and just walk). The descents were steep and rocky, and I was mistrustful of that wobbly ankle after my Woodside mishap, so I descended like a geriatric. This new cautious approach robbed me of my one trail running asset, but I was glad just to stay upright for the whole race. I started to view anything less than a 6% grade as a “flat” and took advantage of picking up a little speed on those rare sections. For most of the race, I had the trail to myself, and though the views were majestic, I was so preoccupied with my footing, I barely noticed. Much of the route was single track, with deep ruts and cracks hardened into the drought-parched earth.

There was no PR to be had today, and this was by far the most time I’ve ever spent working on a half marathon, but my 2 hour finish gave me a solid 30 or 40 minute margin over second place, so I’d consider that a success.

Whoops! try again.

There we go, that’s better.